Mad Max: Fury Road's Car Chases Look So Good Because They Were So Dangerous To Shoot

When "Mad Max: Fury Road" came along in 2015, it was a revelation. The fourth "Mad Max" film landed in theaters thirty years after "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," the third entry in the series. In a year where the box office was dominated by blockbusters like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Jurassic World," and "Avengers: Age of Ultron," no one had any reason to suspect that this other old franchise would come roaring back to life with such great gusto, rather like a souped-up car engine in a post-apocalyptic desert "war party."

"Fury Road" received ten Academy Award nominations, including one for best picture and one for best director for George Miller. At a time when other tentpoles were peddling weightless CGI, "Fury Road" engaged audiences with the tactile thrills of a chase movie shot mostly with practical effects, meaning real cars and real stunts, some involving Cirque du Soleil performers. Miller even had real fire coming out the Doof Warrior's flamethrower guitar. If that sounds dangerous, it's nothing compared to one particular scene at the end of the movie.

The 'most difficult stunt' of the movie was achieved through practical effects

In the climactic conclusion to the seemingly endless vehicle chase in "Mad Max: Fury Road," Nux (Nicholas Hoult) causes the massive War Rig behind Max (Tom Hardy), Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and company to wreck. Miller singled this stunt out to the BBC's Top Gear, saying:

"The most difficult stunt – in terms of pulling it off – was when the War Rig rolls at the end [of the film]. Initially we started off that stunt, and I said, 'There's no way we're putting a human in that vehicle.' But CG didn't make sense in a movie in which everything is real. We looked at models, but that would look hokey. Then we looked at a remote-control War Rig, but we couldn't get it... on the spot. So we did it for real."

Miller and his crew only had one take to do the War Rig roll, so they had to get it right. The director said, "When it worked, it was just very gratifying. We wouldn't have an end to the movie otherwise. That was big."

The film's crew was also quite big, with Top Gear reporting that "Fury Road" had "an average of 1,000 people on set at any one time." Another memorable bit of imagery — that of the Pole Cats swinging in on 30-foot poles — was also achieved in a practical fashion with real stunt performers. Miller explained:

"Initially I thought they'd be done in CG, but one day I looked up, and they'd figured out the pendulum of the guys, using car engines as a weight at the bottom."

It's mind-boggling to think that some of the more perilous stunts in "Mad Max: Fury Road," like the Pole Cat acrobatics and the crashing of the War Rig, were pulled off practically. But as is the case with other famous movie car chases like "The French Connection," maybe part of the visceral thrill of "Fury Road" comes from the audience being able to tangibly feel the stakes of what they're seeing onscreen.